2020 Speakers and Panelists featured image background

Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management

2020 BootCamp Speakers and Panelists

A team of highly experienced leaders present BootCamp sessions in the focus areas of mission, board governance, leadership style and capabilities, strategic management, financial management and planning, resource development, and legal and ethical issues.

This page will be updated periodically as speakers are confirmed.

Robert B. Acton, JD, Principal and Founder, Cause Strategy Partners

Cause Strategy Partners is a consulting social enterprise that provides strategic counsel and high-impact programming to foundations, companies and social good organizations with a specialized focus on building both board and executive leadership. A Certified B Corporation, the firm partners with local, regional and national foundations; Fortune 500 corporate social responsibility and HR/talent teams; and nonprofit boards of directors, chief executives and staff leaders. Cause Strategy Partners’ client list includes Google, Goldman Sachs, LinkedIn, JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Barclays, PwC, Capital One, KPMG, United Airlines, MasterCard, Macquarie Group, Cushman & Wakefield, Motorola Solutions, Allstate, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The Chicago Community Trust, Heckscher Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, UJA Federation of New York, and scores of nonprofit organizations serving communities around the country. Cause Strategy Partners’ signature program, BoardLead, has placed, trained and supported more than 200 professionals for high-impact board service in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.

Rob has more than two decades of experience founding, leading and scaling social good organizations as both a nonprofit chief executive and board leader. In 2011, Rob was appointed executive director of Taproot Foundation in New York City and served as interim leader of the foundation’s work in Chicago as well. During his four-year tenure, revenue more than doubled and the number of nonprofit organizations served grew 220%. Prior to Taproot, Rob led Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) in Chicago. During his seven-year tenure as executive director, CGLA grew substantially in size, reputation and community impact, expanding ten-fold the number of indigent clients served, adding policy work as a key aspect of its programs, tripling the agency’s annual revenue, scaling pro bono legal service, and doubling the organization’s staff. Under Rob’s leadership, CGLA received Chicago’s prestigious Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence.

Rob is vice chair of the board of directors of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York (NPCC), an organization representing and serving 1,500-member nonprofit organizations in the New York City region. He has co-chaired NPCC’s strategic planning committee and development committee, and has also served on the presidential search committee and governance committee. Rob serves on the advisory board of CGLA. Previously, Rob was a founding board member of Illinois Legal Aid Online, served on the advisory board of the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, and served on the board of trustees of his alma mater, Spring Arbor University. Rob was appointed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and confirmed by the Illinois Senate to serve on a state commission investigating police abuse.

Rob is a member of the Bar of the State of New York. He attended Michigan public schools, Spring Arbor University and Brooklyn Law School. Rob’s causes: educational equity, second chances for ex-offenders, the performance arts, and nonprofit capacity building. Rob tweets @RobertActon.

Claudette Baker, President of Claudette G. Baker & Associates, Inc.

Claudette is president of Claudette G. Baker & Associates, Inc., a consulting company advising foundations and nonprofits, delivering training and providing technical assistance to organizations and their leaders to help them become effective, efficient and smart in accomplishing their mission and goals. Her consulting focuses on organizational development (strategic thinking and planning, program planning and development), project management, board governance and development, annual fundraising, leadership development, and group facilitation. Claudette provides formal and informal coaching to executive directors with an emphasis on board and fund development and on working with diverse groups and perspectives.

Her career has spanned the for-profit, government and nonprofit sectors for more than 35 years. She has an in-depth understanding of the complexities in managing and governing nonprofit organizations. Claudette served as the vice president of library and nonprofit services at Forefront formerly Donors Forum, worked as senior director of center development for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, was a regional director for retired US Senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), and was an account executive for a top-rated radio station in Louisiana. Claudette holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  She is a past board member of the Crossroads Fund and Association of Fundraising Professionals, Chicago Chapter. She is currently on the advisory board of the African American Legacy (identity focused fund) at the Chicago Community Trust and the Willie’s Warriors Advisory Board.

David Bea, JD, Principal, Bea & VandenBerk Attorneys at Law

David Bea is an attorney with the firm of Bea & VandenBerk in Chicago. The attorneys at Bea & VandenBerk concentrate on serving nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. They have successfully taken a wide variety of organizations through the start-up process, advised both large and small organizations on issues of governance, leadership, management, corporate re-structuring, taxation, international operations, operation of foreign subsidiaries, protection of intellectual property, real estate, and employment administration. Their clients are nationwide. David’s clients include start-ups, nonprofits, religious organizations, private foundations, entrepreneurs, publishers, authors, artists, and other creatives. David has presented seminars for the Chicago Bar Association, the IRS TE/GE Advisory Council, and numerous other organizations about matters of nonprofit law, social enterprise law, or intellectual property. He is a member of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Federal Tax Committee of the Chicago Bar Association and formerly served as the committee chair. He has served on boards or volunteered for several nonprofits.

Dr. ML Black, MA, MHA, PhD, Founder, Big Joy Theory

Dr. ML Black is a certified coach, experienced consultant, and dynamic leader. She guides her clients into their most authentic leadership presence by understanding who they really are and what lights them up, then maximizing that joy in their work. This isn’t about next steps, promotions or milestones: it is about finding final ultimate forms and operating in your most authentic leadership.

ML has been chasing her joy since she discovered the high jump in third grade—at 5’4”, defying expectations became a permanent part of her character and she realized she was born to fly. ML’s trophy mantle is a tad cluttered between her three-time All American high jump career and many leadership awards: the 2012 Global Girls Women and Girls Inspiring Change Award, the Ohio State University Health Services’ Management & Policy Leadership Award, the DePaul University Women Spirit & Action Award (twice), ChicagoNow’s list of Chicagoans to Watch in 2015, her write-up in People with Panache, and the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Most recently she was one of 50 women who launched the inaugural Women In Entrepreneurship Program at DePaul University. She is also on the board of the DePaul Theatre School, the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, and the Women In Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Andreason Brown, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer at the Spencer Foundation in Chicago

Andreason Brown is chief financial officer and treasurer at the Spencer Foundation in Chicago which supports high-quality investigation of education through its research programs.  He is responsible for all accounting and information technology functions of this $500+ million private foundation. Andreason most recently served in the roles of chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Forefront (formerly Donors Forum), the Illinois membership association for grant makers and nonprofits.

Andreason serves on several local and national boards in support of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He is an African American Legacy Fund Life Director and an appointed board member of the Illinois State Treasurer’s Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund. Andreason frequently speaks and advises on organizational sustainability, accounting, budgeting, and strategic development.

Born and raised in West Michigan and a Chicago resident since 1995, Andreason holds a B.S. in economics from Central Michigan University and M.S. in nonprofit management from DePaul University.

Sidney C. Freitag-Fey, MA, CFRE, Director of Development and Marketing, Delta Institute

Sidney (Sid) has more than 15 years of resource development experience with expertise in individual giving (annual fund, major gifts, and planned giving); board relations and recruitment; grant writing and prospecting; corporate sponsorship; event planning fundraising strategy; and marketing. Currently he is the director of development and marketing for Delta Institute, a $4M 501c3 that works with communities throughout the Midwest to solve environmental and economic needs. Sid previously served as development director for a small regenerative farming and food safety nonprofit, a gifts officer for Heartland Alliance for Human Rights & Human Needs, and in steadily increasing development roles for multiple Chicago-based social service agencies since 2006. He is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Mongolia; was adjunct faculty at Loyola University Chicago; and has been a presenter for the Axelson Center since 2014. He is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association.

Richard L. Jones, PhD, Executive Coach/Organizational Consultant

Richard L. Jones, Ph.D., has served in major leadership roles in the nonprofit sector throughout the country. He has served as the administrator of the Division of Senior and Adult Services and the administrator of Employment and Family Services and the Cuyahoga Support Enforcement Agency for Cuyahoga County. In 2013, he served as the senior vice president of community investment of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. In this role, he was responsible for leadership, planning and measurement and execution of United Way’s strategic investments in the areas of income, education and health. Prior to this position, he served as president and CEO of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago delivering more than $290 million in programs and services to more than 600,000 people. Prior to joining Metropolitan Family Services, he served as executive director of Boston Children’s Services in Boston, Massachusetts and president and CEO of the Center for Families and Children in Cleveland.

Richard’s leadership is recognized nationally and internationally. He was presented the Leadership in Nonprofit Award by the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western Reserve University in 1997; a fellowship to the Harvard Business School in 2005; and the Lifetime Achievement Award for the State of Illinois by the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in 2011. In the Spring of 2010, Dr. Jones was one of a select group of delegates to participate in the Congress on Social Work and in 2010 and 2011 he served as a co-leader of a delegation of social workers studying the social service system in Russia and Brazil.

Richard completed his MSSA and Ph.D. at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western University. He has served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Alliance for Children and Families, the Chicago Alliance for Collaborative Effort, and Assurance Services which is the for-profit arm of the NASW. Previous leadership responsibilities have included serving on the board of directors of Leadership Cleveland and the Cleveland United Way; serving as the co-chair of the International Year of the Family and co-chair of the Commission on Chemical Dependency and Child Welfare for the Child Welfare League of America. Recently, Richard was honored as president emeritus of Metropolitan Family Services and had a building named in his honor.

A graduate of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 1993, Richard is a member of the Visiting Committee of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western Reserve University and he is a presenter on risk management for Assurance Services, Inc., which oversees insurance products for the NASW. He is also a board member of the NASW Insurance Company.

Jennifer R. Madden, PhD, MNO, Dean, School of Business & Professor of Management, Linfield University; President, Leverage Point Development

Jennifer is a researcher, teacher, facilitator and design thinker. In her work with community-based nonprofit organizations, she assists with strategic planning, resource development, and capacity building. Jennifer holds a Ph.D. from the Weatherhead School of Management, a master’s in nonprofit management, and a bachelor’s in both economics and American studies, all from Case Western Reserve University. Jennifer is a Nonprofit Management Research Fellow, a Fowler Sustainability Fellow and a Management Design Fellow. Her current research is on designing effective public-private partnerships then leveraging those collaborations to build capacity for effective performance and social innovation.

Her new book, Inter-Organizational Collaboration by Design in the Routledge Critical Studies in Public Management Series, examines how collaborations can overcome barriers to innovate and rejuvenate communities outlining the factors and antecedents that influence successful collaboration. The book proposes a theoretical perspective for collaborators to adopt the language of designers, evidence-based tools, and strategies to enable success. The book outlines her journey from research to action resulting in a “Collaboration Blueprint” that assisted community-based nonprofit organizations to secure over $13.5 million in grant funding.

Dominica McBride, PhD, Founder and CEO, Become Center

Dominica is an award-winning evaluator and champion of culturally responsive evaluation. She has conducted program development and evaluation projects with many diverse communities, both in the United States and Tanzania. She also conducts training for communities, coalitions, and organizations nationally. She has received awards from the American Evaluation Association, ARK of St. Sabina, and Bright Promises Foundation for her work in evaluation and community development. She has published articles and chapters on various topics, including culturally responsive evaluation, cultural competence, and prevention. Dominica has also provided adult, child and family therapy as well as substance abuse counseling. She has a PhD in counseling psychology with a specialization in consultation from Arizona State University.

Kelli McMiller, Strategic Engagement Leader and VP of Consulting, The Kaleidoscope Group

Kelli serves as the strategic engagement leader and vice president of consulting at The Kaleidoscope Group, a full- service diversity and inclusion (D&I) consulting firm based in Chicago. In her role, Kelli gives corporations advice on creating a transformative, long-term sustainable D&I journey.

Formerly, Kelli served as Sara Lee’s director of inclusion & diversity for North America. At Sara Lee, she created the foundation for D&I success and continued to partner with business leaders to deliver against goals set for the organization.  Highlights of her achievements at Sara Lee include:

  • Launching the inaugural, annual inclusion & diversity event to provide an overview of the company’s success and opportunities as well as recognize employees who made an impact in creating an inclusive culture.
  • Creating an ambassador program to support the company’s external diversity recruitment strategy.
  • Providing oversight for all resource groups and launching the company’s first LGBT (Pride Network) with the CEO serving as the executive sponsor. Kelli influenced the organization to create its first multicultural marketing director position.

Headquartered in Indianapolis at Emmis Communications (a multi-media organization), Kelli was the director of diversity and staffing. There she built and managed the staffing processes, ensured compliance and led recruitment and diversity initiatives for the organization. Some of the many successes during her tenure there were development and execution of an organization-wide strategic long-term diversity plan and successful launches of numerous diversity programs, diversity roundtables and best practice external-recruitment initiatives.

Kelli’s work has been highlighted in industry publications, city magazines and recognized in the Indianapolis Mayor’s Diversity Awards. She was named one of 30 Young Leaders of the Future, featured in EBONY Magazine and serves on the advisory board of DePaul University’s Center to Advance Education for Adults.

With a proven record in defining vision, developing strategy and executing action plans that produce sustainable results, Kelli is an invaluable resource to executives.  She has a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Ball State University.

Mary Morten, President, Morten Group LLC

Mary Morten is the president of Morten Group (MG), a national consulting firm that focuses on the nonprofit, for-profit, and foundation fields. Morten Group is comprised of a multiracial, cross-generational group of professionals—an intentional component of their business model. The firm focuses on diversity, racial equity and inclusion, executive placements, research and organizational development. Mary recently launched her own podcast. “Gathering Ground” can be found on iTunes, Spotify and wherever you find your podcasts.

Previous positions include associate director, interim executive director and board president of Chicago Foundation for Women, the region’s largest women’s fund; as well as interim executive director of Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM); and interim vice president of development at Howard Brown Health Center.

Mary is a past director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the Chicago Department of Public Health. Prior to this position, Mary was an appointee for Mayor Richard M. Daley and served as a director in the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with an emphasis in radio and television from Loyola University Chicago and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Cori Moschberger, LCSW, MSW, Counselor and Organizational Development Consultant

Cori is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She has been in the field of social services since 1998. She received her Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2003.

Cori is a clinical therapist and an organizational development consultant and trainer residing in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. She is an author, a dog lover, enjoys new experiences and adventure and values compassion and lifelong learning.

As a consultant and trainer Cori specializes in the nonprofit sector. Her expertise includes administration, management, team building and training, leadership, and mentoring. Having successfully led her own staff as an executive director of an organization in Chicago, Cori brings to her clients the real-world “know-how” needed to effectively mentor and manage employees and teams.

As a clinical therapist, Cori uses a strengths-based approach with all her clients. She creates a safe and comforting environment that allows clients to discover their strengths to live happier and more enriched lives.

Gretchen Upholt, MPA, Lead Consultant, Midwest at FMA

An experienced staff and program manager, Gretchen has expertise in training, capacity building, research, and program and volunteer management. As Lead Consultant, Midwest at FMA, Gretchen splits her time between playing an active role as trainer, coach, and curriculum developer for FMA’s cohort training initiatives and as consultant to nonprofit clients across the country, helping nonprofit leaders improve their financial management skills and processes.

Before joining the FMA team, Gretchen served as the head of the Volunteer Department at the Thabyay Education Network in Thailand. In that role, Gretchen developed a strategic plan to improve monitoring and evaluation and program management in her department. She also served on the leadership team for the organization, where she reviewed and approved budgets for the organization’s 22 programs and worked on a plan to restructure the organization’s finance and operations staffing and systems.

Before her work in Thailand, Gretchen served as a Community Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, where she designed project frameworks, wrote grants, and led a committee tasked with making funding decisions for USAID funded grants. With a widely diverse background, Gretchen also has experience working on the corporate citizenship team at the TCC Group, designing and implementing a pilot research study on nonprofit talent costs for the Talent Philanthropy Project, as a project manager with the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, and as Chorus Manager for The Choral Arts Society of Washington.

Gretchen holds a Masters of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, where she was a Head Teaching Colleague for the core finance and management classes. After graduation, Gretchen continued her relationship with Wagner as an Adjunct Professor and Teaching Colleague. She received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Arts and Cultural Management from American University in Washington, DC. She maintains her love of music as a singer with Allegrezza Singers, a Chicago-based SATB choir.

Renee Watts, EdD, Chief HR Officer, Little City Foundation

Through a diverse career in the nonprofit arena,  Renee has over 25 years’ experience in various leadership and management roles in government, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations. Currently, she works at Little City Foundation as the chief HR officer and serves as an adjunct professor at North Park University. Renee possesses proven experience building highly productive operations for numerous sites in multiple states, while delivering quality programs and services. She is a dynamic senior executive who reduces corporate risk, and successfully created and implemented high impact, quality administrative systems resulting in dramatic improvements in operational, human resources and financial performance. During her professional career, she has served as a trusted advisor and board member on various nonprofit boards.

Renee’s educational accomplishments include a Doctor of Adult Education (Ed.D) from Nova Southeastern University, a Masters of Health Services Administration from Florida International University and a Bachelor of Science from Ohio State University. Renee holds two Senior Human Resource Professional certifications.